Elio Germani

Elio Germani  (Italy) has attended the DOCUMENTARY workshop with Patrick Zachmann.
I was born in Trieste, Italy, in 1981. My work develops in the field of visual arts focusing on photography. My production since now has been deeply influenced by the consequences of political and historical events happened in Trieste all along the XX century. The city is actually placed on the Italian border and during the last century has belonged to several states. Due to those changes around my city and the history of my family I became interested by personal identity and roots: this has become the thematic which I explore.

I’m interested in representing people that move around the world, without showing their real faces, the most subjective element of our personal identity. Nowadays, the values of identity and family roots are questioned, are broken and ever changing; this has had an effect on the way people relate to each other and the places they visit or work. Roles and functions in contemporary society are interchangeable. These veiled portraits represent tourists and itinerant workers in places I’ve visited, hidden by their own clothes, personal belongings or instruments.

International Center of Photography, NY 
Elio’s essay is technically very good, as well as thought-provoking in and as of itself: it deals with a profoundly universal theme, combining esthetics, sociology, politics, and geography. I particularly like the fact that it stems from a personal point of view: his place of birth, which prevents the essay from being too conceptual. The photographs constitute a discourse that is very structured and to-the-point. Being myself very drawn to the question of territories and borders – I was very happily surprised to see that Elio’s essay was based on his experience of the city of Trieste. I was just recently exposed to the history of Trieste while working on an exhibition of photographer Chim (David Seymour), who took very interesting, socio-political pictures of the town in 1947 (that I would gladly share with Elio if he wants to see them).

In terms of images, my favorites are the more universal ones: number 1 – which I find extremely powerful, if not a little suffocating to look at. Images 8 and 9, where the combination of body language and visually striking walls make for very attractive compositions. I like image 13 because of the movement – chaos almost – and the surprising appearance of this portrait (Obama?) on a Parisian market. Image 11 somewhat triggers my curiosity – and fear: this friendly man posing with an Eiffel tower somehow reminds me of an ETA or IRA member (shooting in the sky the way they do in Republican funeral), and immediately brings me back fully to the question of disputed territories. I also love the use of color in these photographs – the very minimal use of color, mostly on the subject, that also help the spectator focus on what – or who – really matters.

I am less drawn to the more anecdotal images, as funny and light as they look, perhaps they seem too light for the subject. Having said that, this feeling is obviously very subjective: perhaps indeed there should be lightness in the treatment of serious subjects. I guess what I particularly love in Elio’s series is the repetitive nature of the wall as a background – the walls always changing in a surreptitious way, as a metaphor for the irrational and systematic nature of discrimination. Furthermore, with the wall in the background, the focus is drawn entirely on the subject, which gives it the importance it deserves. I am therefor less attracted to the three last images – because the multiple colors and the addition of depth of field behing the subject become too confusing. The only occurrence when the depth of field is not so disturbing is image 11, because the pattern of the wall remains as a thread.

I would be very interested to see what Elio does with his/this story in the future. It seems that he has the wit, meticulousness and passion required to tell a story beautifully, and that photography is his most natural, personal way to convey it. Perhaps in the near future he should travel the world and find more walls, famous or not, to continue exploring this theme, capturing political and apolitical walls, known and unknown human beings.